Individual Artist Fellowship Guidelines

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DEADLINE: April 14, 2023

Grant Awards Range from $5,000 – $50,000
For Artists Whose Residential Address is in Region I: Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego Counties

Fellowship Period: July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024

Apply at

Background: Why is this program being offered?

With few opportunities for individual artists to apply for funding, and even fewer for their achievements to be recognized, the California Arts Council has created this program as a way to celebrate the state’s artists and culture bearers.

Purpose: What is the intended impact of this program?

The Individual Artists Fellowship (IAF) program will recognize, uplift, and celebrate the excellence of California artists and culture bearers practicing any art form with unrestricted grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.

Region I

California Arts Council has contracted with Arts Orange County (ArtsOC) as the lead Administering Organization in Region I, comprised of the counties of Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego. ArtsOC has joined with the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, Riverside Arts Council, Arts Connection – the Arts Council of San Bernardino County and North County Coalition for the Arts (Imperial County) in creating a collaborative of the five State Local Partner arts councils that serve those counties.

The Program

This program will support artists and culture bearers at key moments in their careers, elevating their capacity for continued contribution to the field and our state. Fellowship grants support individual artistic practice through unrestricted funding. This program is intended to support a broad spectrum of artists working in all disciplines, from diverse geographies and communities of all sizes across Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties.

Excellence, for purposes of this grant, is defined as an artist’s:

  • Unique artistic vision
  • Ongoing commitment to creative practice
  • Engagement with and impact on the larger cultural ecosystem

The grant program identifies three career tiers at which artists may benefit from this support:

Emerging Artist Fellows - $5,000

Emerging artists are those in the beginning stages of making their work public and engaging the larger community in their practice. Individuals at this career stage may have had a few public showings of their work, but do not yet have ongoing resources or support.

Established Artist Fellows - $10,000

Artists in the Established tier regularly make their work public and engage the larger community in their practice. Individuals in this tier can give multiple examples of artistic and/or cultural works that have made significant social impact.

Legacy Artist Fellows - $50,000

Artists in the Legacy tier can point to a significant body of work, produced over a substantial period of time, that has engaged their communities and that has made significant social impact. Artists in this tier may be able to point to Emerging and Established Artists that they have mentored or otherwise positively influenced.

  • Individuals may submit an application in one career tier only.
  • The judging panel may shift an applicant to an alternate tier during the review process if it is believed that reclassification would make them more competitive. However, an applicant
    may ask to be considered ONLY for the tier they are applying for.
  • Fellowship grants support individual artistic practice through unrestricted funding.
  • Awards will be funded at the full dollar amount for each tier; partial awards will not be made. This grant is not intended to support artist groups or collectives.

As an additional means of recognizing and elevating Artist Fellows, convenings (in-person or virtual) will be held so they may engage with one another and be celebrated publicly for their distinction as California Artist Fellows.

Eligibility Requirements

California-based artists, 18 years of age and older, working in any artistic discipline, whose residential address is in the area designated as Region I, are eligible to apply. Artists residing in or primarily working in other areas of California are eligible to apply for the Individual Artist Fellowship Program in their region. For more information, please visit (Region II – Los Angeles County) or (Region III – Fresno, Kern, Kings, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Stanislaus, Tulare, and Ventura counties). For all other counties, please contact the California Arts Council at

Recipients of the 2021 California Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship are not eligible to apply.

Applicants must comply with the requirements below. All applications must include the listed items at the time of submission in order to be reviewed, ranked and considered for funding.

  • Artist’s narrative - Applicants must provide a brief description of their background and focus.
  • Artist work samples - Applicants must include examples of their work.
  • Letter of support or testimonial - Applicants must provide a written signed statement from an individual or organization familiar with their body of work that can substantiate the artist’s practice, relevance, and impact in their community. The letter must include the writer’s name, title, and contact information.
  • Support materials - Applicants must supply a resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Applicants may also submit up to two additional supporting documents such as press materials, flyers, brochures, programs, newsletters and other marketing pieces. More recent materials are preferred; however, we recognize that COVID-19 has impacted the amount of work created in the past three years.
  • Signatures on required attachments - Letters and other attachments requiring signatures must include completed digital or scanned signatures in order to be considered for funding.

Online Application Portal

Applications will be available online through Arts Orange County’s online grants management system at Only applications submitted through the system by the deadline will be accepted.

Application Review Criteria

Applications from individual artists and culture bearers will be adjudicated by peer review panels convened by Arts Orange County and its Region I Collaborative, and based on the following review criteria:

  • Creative Vision: Artist effectively communicates their personal story, artistic medium or practice, and long-term aspirations for their work.
  • Aesthetic Excellence: Artistic work and/or examples of cultural practice demonstrate strong alignment with the components of the Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change, including commitment, communal meaning, disruption, cultural integrity, risk taking, sensory experience, emotional experience, openness, coherence, resourcefulness, and stickiness.
  • Community Engagement and Social Impact: Artist effectively communicates their engagement with their community(ies) and the positive social impact their work has had locally, regionally, and/or statewide, addressing themes including but not limited to race, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

Panel Adjudication and Ranking Scale

Panelists will review and rank applications, identifying final cohorts at each tier that represent the diversity of Region I’s arts landscape and geography. The following 6 point scale will be used:

  • 6 - Exemplary. Meets all of the review criteria to the highest degree. A model for field or discipline with essentially no weaknesses.
  • 5 - Outstanding. Very strong with some minor weaknesses. Meets the review criteria to a high degree.
  • 4 - Good. Strong but with numerous minor weaknesses. Meets the review criteria to some degree.
  • 3 - Fair. Some strengths, but some moderate weaknesses. Meets some elements of the review criteria to some degree.
  • 2 - Marginal. Very few strengths and some major weaknesses. The review criteria is only marginally satisfied.
  • 1 - Poor. Does not meet the review criteria.

Program Timeline

Application Opens February 14, 2023
Application Deadline April 14, 2023 11:59:59 PM
Panel Review April 17 – May 19, 2023
Panel Interviews of Legacy Finalists May 22 – 26, 2023
Funding Notification May 30, 2023
Funding Issued Approximately June 1 – 9, 2023
Fellowship Period July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024

Grantee Requirements

Awarded grantees must comply with all requirements as stipulated in the grant agreement, including but not limited to the following:

  • Complete contract documents - Upon notification of grant award, complete all required contract documents in order to receive 100% grant payment.
  • Consistent activities - Maintain communication with Arts Orange County throughout the duration of the fellowship and participate in program activities as scheduled by Arts Orange County and the Region I collaborative.
  • Thank you letters - To better inform our elected representatives as to the value of the arts and the use of state funds, grantees are required to include—with the approved grant agreement—copies of signed letters sent to the Governor and state Senate and Assembly representatives thanking them for the grant. Local representatives may be found at this link:
  • Final work submissions – Emerging and Established Artist Fellows will be required to submit a piece of work for inclusion in a virtual gallery, and Legacy Fellows will be required to submit works to be included in a digital timeline. This may include any work submitted with the application or produced during the fellowship year.
  • Final Report – a one-page narrative telling the story of what your fellowship meant to you and your community.

Arts Orange County staff is available to offer guidance and clarification in preparing your proposal. We recommend that you contact staff well in advance of the deadline to ensure you can be accommodated. People who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Deaf-Blind, or have difficulty speaking may dial 711 to reach the California Relay Service (CRS). Large print is available upon request. For assistance, please contact Patrick Brien – Or Nicholas Thurkettle – 714.556.5160 ext. 14


Art Forms

Are these fellowships for visual artists only?

No. Artists engaging in all creative disciplines are welcome to apply and will be considered. In the visual arts, this includes not only painters, sculptors, illustrators, but also graphic designers, photographers, videographers, filmmakers and digital media, and crafts.

Literary arts include but are not limited to writers of fiction and non-fiction, playwrights and screenwriters, poets and lyricists. Performing arts includes actors, dancers and musicians, but also directors, choreographers, conductors, designers (scenic, lighting, sound, costume, props) are eligible to apply. Cultural practitioners are also eligible, including sustainers of indigenous and other cultures’ traditional rituals. The culinary arts, including winemaking and beer brewing, are eligible, as well. As a form of cultural practice, martial arts are also eligible.


Must I reside within the 5 counties of Region I to apply?

Yes. The program recognizes that many artists travel to practice their work or are hired to bring their work to other communities, but this is a program for California-based artists only. You must reside in Region I to apply for the Region I fellowships. If you reside elsewhere in California, you are encouraged to apply to the Individual Artist Fellowships Program for the region in which you reside.


Must I be employed professionally as an artist to quality?

No. Although the fellowship categories are based upon duration of engagement in creative practice, the program recognizes the fact that many artists are not employed by others to practice their art and other artists do not seek compensation for their work. Therefore, eligibility is open to professionals and non-professionals alike.


Must I propose a project that will need to be completed at the conclusion of the fellowship period?

No. There are no restrictions on your use of the grant funds—the fellowships are merit-based awards for your existing body of work and practice. You are not required to create new work or to report back about how you utilized your fellowship funds. However, if you are selected for a fellowship, you will be invited to attend a live check presentation ceremony in your county and encouraged to participate in free networking and professional development webinars where you will have the opportunity to meet other artists and learn about skills and other resources that may be helpful to you in your practice.

Selection Process

Who will select the fellowship recipients?

There will be an expert panel of judges in each county, comprised of panel members from that county as well as from other counties in the region. They will be representative of various arts disciplines. Although their identities will not be shared during the selection process, a list of all Region I panelists will be made public after the awarding of the fellowships.


Will I need to provide a W9?

As the intent behind the Individual Artist Fellowship is charitable, we will not be requesting W9s, nor will 1099s be issued.